Delivered at the Missouri Libertarian Party State Convention 2020
Fellow travelers. We may not always see eye-to-eye, but we are on this road together to a destination where getting Libertarians elected is commonplace. One of us who had been on this road for decades died this past year, and we honor her for her cheerful dedication to our honorable mission. Lisa Schaper. We miss her. We miss her husband and fellow traveler, Steve, who died the year before. And we miss Robb Cunningham. We miss Phil Horras. We miss Mike Bozarth. We miss Karl Wetzel. We miss George Mussman. We miss Herb Gassman. We miss many more who did not die but are absent just the same.
Each year, though we scout other paths and take different trails, those of us who remain true to the mission, a mission with no end in sight–we gather annually in a clearing, this convention. It is my honor to address this gathering as its Executive Director, for now these past two decades.
Let us consider the state of our State Party. Often one judges one’s condition by comparison. Let us do that. Look at the people on the Missouri Democratic Party website. You will see diversity and notably youth. I am pleased to see we look more like that than I had expected to see. There are quite a few young people here, especially, but everyone seems young by comparison to me. Look at the people on the Missouri Republican Party website. Every one of them is an elected official. They hold every statewide office except the Auditor’s position. They hold 6 of the 8 US Congressional seats. They hold both our US Senate seats.
How would you assess the state of the Republican State Party?
Consider the Missouri Democratic Party. They no longer have an office in Jefferson City. They have about 1/4th of the 163 State House seats. They have about 1/4th of the 34 State Senate seats. The Democratic Party lost the State House in 2002. They lost the State Senate the same year.
How would you assess the state of the State Democratic Party?
At the 2018 State Convention, for the first time I gave a talk I billed as a “State of the State Party” address. I talked about exposing healthcare and education to market forces. I talked about Proportional Representation. I said we were in “survival mode.” Let me put it this way, this year. We’re surviving! And that’s something! Rats, though, It’s tough!
If people are insufficiently rewarded for a behavior, they reduce that behavior. You’ve heard it this way, I’m sure. Subsidize it – get more. Tax it – get less. Behavioral scientists say the hardest behavior to break is behavior that receives occasional reinforcement. If a mouse occasionally gets a pellet for pressing the bar, it’ll press forever. If it never got that first reward, it would quit, sooner than later. If it always got a reward but then the rewards stopped, it would quit pretty quick. If we measure our reward for participation in the political process in legislative seats, we have never been rewarded. Not one pellet have our efforts earned.
I received an e-mail encouraging me to think about what kind of amenities I might want the hotel to provide, and I had this reply. I won’t need anything. I travel with my own Rockstar energy drinks,Twizzlers, M&M’s and Planter’s peanuts. Notice, those are all branded products. We are a brand, too. Our brand, however, is for display only. The same is true for the other third parties, and even the major parties in districts where they never win – there are stores that don’t stock their brand, either.
So why do we do this? Lots of us don’t anymore. Those of us who continue are clearly getting some kind of reinforcement, sufficient to keep us involved. Perhaps we have a well-informed sense of self-interest that finds satisfaction in knowing we’re doing the right thing, even if we don’t get a pellet when we press the bar. Perhaps we feel rewarded by the advances we have championed – marijuana legalization, legalized gambling, legalized homosexuality. We were pro-freedom before it cool. Whatever our reasons, hooray! We’re surviving! Enjoy the process. Keep pressing the bar. Engage with the Party with renewed enthusiasm.